SUST PACK 2015: Sustainable Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 11, 2015 3:44:00 PM

Hey guys!

SUST PACK is a conference that I attended a couple years ago that has been a joint production between Packaging Digest and Smithers PIRA International. This year, for the first time, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition is joining in on the production fun, adding some more muscle to this already dynamic duo. Having withdrawn from the SPC two years ago, I am super excited to be reunited with the many friendly faces of the sustainable packaging working group.

I presented at SUST PACK on recycling PET thermoform packaging, shocker. It is pretty cool that not only am I attending the event as a contributing reporter for Packaging Digest, but that I also get to update the attendees on the state of clamshell recycling; that is, that PET thermoforms like the clamshells Dordan manufacturers are recyclable and recycled post consumer. Wahoo!

Here is a list of some of the confirmed attendees.


There are over 400 registered guests of the conference, so it should make for a sustainable packaging party.

The conference kicks off the first day with two tours: one, at an anaerobic digestor; the other, at Tampa's Waste Management facility.

Anaerobic digestors are facilities that essentially turn food waste into fertilizer. That's a cool hash tag, #foodwastetofertilizer. Anyway, think of the belly of a cow and you have the basics of anaerobic digestion. Waste management facilities are, as the name would imply, where a county's waste gets "managed"; either via landfill or recycling. If you haven't been to a waste management facility I would strongly encourage you to attend as it is somewhat of an eye opener into the complexities of waste management and the systems required to allow a material to be recyclable.

The next morning begins with a workshop on "compostables" i.e. packaging that is certified to biodegrade in an "industrial composting facility," and followed by a workshop on how to design foodservice packaging for "recovery."

Running simaltaneously to these workshops is another track, starting with a workshop on innovations in forest certification and followed by a session on "sustainable materials management."

The day concludes with an opening reception and an award ceremony.

On Wednesday, April Fool's Day, there better be some radical pranks. The day starts with a yoga session at 6:30 AM, which I hope isn't a prank. The conference keynote is to follow, given by the Executive Director of the SPC.

After that is a presentation on how companies can "walk the talk of sustainability." In other words, how companies can actually address issues that matter most to their organizations in the context of sustainability, as opposed to just talking about them.

Next is a session on how sustainability is integrated into company analysis for stakeholders and potential investors. Questions answered in this session include:

  • Why are Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues important when evaluating a company?
  • What drives investor scrutiny beyond the annual report?
  • The connection between ESG issues and evaluating a company's resilience, strategic vision, and its ability to innovate
  • Evaluating investments through a broader lens: ESG- related risk mitigation, cost savings, opportunity creation, productivity gains, and employee retention.
  • Criteria to consider a company a sustainable investment
  • What drives companies to integrate sustainability? Investor pressure? Market pressure? Competition? Innovation?
  • Key areas companies struggle with

Next up is a presentation on how to "embed sustainability into the enterprise: from strategy to innovation"; yikes!

From there the conference moves onto another topic, "accelerating consumer interest" [in sustainability.]

These presentations include one on how consumers really feel about sustainable packaging and one on global trends in consumer sustainability.

The afternoon has three different tracks: one on bioplastics; another on marine debris; the other on "innovations across the supply chain."

Day three starts with yoga, awesome, and follows a similar structure as day two.

First, a panel on "innovative packaging flash talks" and then a presentation from Replenish.

Next, a presentation on biodegradable packaging re: a solution to plastic marine debris.

Then, a story about how Veritiv closed the loop with its waste and found byproduct synergies i.e. actualizing the axiom that one man's trash is another man's treasure. A presentation on making biodegradable plastics from methane gas (sounds awesome); and, a presentation on Dow's stand-up PE pouch.

Then, we shift gears and hear different ideas on how to "run a thread of business champions through an organization to challenge the status quo."

Before the separate tracks kick off, we hear a presentation from Walmart re: sustainable packaging.

Here are the tracks for day three: the "state of the composting industry as it relates to sustainable packaging;" and, "strategic views around recyclability and recovery."

The last two sessions include case studies on how companies implemented the How2Recycling label on their packaging followed by how to drive value from the "circular economy."

The end! Look forward to seeing you in Orlando!